18 December 2008

Head-banging a health hazard

Agence France-Presse
Head-banging to heavy metal music can be hazardous to your health, researchers have found.

Headbanging hurts: Be careful of your range of motion when rocking along to metal music, or you could end up injured, new research says. Credit: DarkLight Nocturnal Entertainment

PARIS: Head-banging to heavy metal music can be hazardous to your health, researchers have found.

In the first-ever study of its kind, published this week in the British Medical Journal, metal aficionados jerking their heads up and down to a fast and furious beat are found to be at risk of everything from whiplash to strokes.

Modelling the technique

Australian risk and safety researchers Declan Patton and Andrew McIntosh, from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, attended hard rock and heavy metal concerts to observe head-banging techniques.

They then worked up a biomechanical analysis, culminating in a “theoretical head-banging model”.

In their offbeat study the pair said that thrashing about to the music may cause similar effects to whiplash.

A typical death-metal rhythm of 146 beats-per-minute or faster, combined with head-banging arcs of at least 45 degrees, is “predicted to cause mild head and neck injury,” they wrote.

Taking a thrashing

With faster tempos and wider arcs, “there are definite risks of mild traumatic brain injury.”

Anecdotal evidence also points to the potential health hazards of ‘thrash rock’, the paper said.

“In 2005, doctors believed that Terry Balsamo, the guitarist from the band Evanescence, experienced a stroke from head-banging,” it noted.

But what can be done?

Brace yourself

Metal fans could wear a neck brace while head-banging – or stick to listening to Michael Bolton, Celine Dion and Enya – joke Patton and McIntosh.

But for those who still prefer high energy tunes to easy listening, the paper offers a practical example of what to avoid.

It applies the “theoretical head-banging model” to well-known cartoon characters Beavis and Butt-head, seen on screen dancing to The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” at 164 beats-per-minute. The range of motion of Beavis’ head is about 45 degrees, which is below the injury threshold.

For Butt-head, though, the prospects are not so great. He head-bangs with a range of motion of about 75 degrees, with the risk of “level one” head injuries, such as headaches and dizziness.


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